Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: December 14, 2014

December 14, 2014 – Third Sunday of Advent
Is 61: 1-2A, 10-11; Lk 1: 46-50, 53-54; Thes 5: 16-24; Jn 1: 6-8, 19-28

Third Sunday of AdventIn his letter to the Thessalonians, our second reading for this, the Third Sunday of Advent, St. Paul gives us a summary of what it means to be a good steward: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks.” That may seem simplistic, admittedly difficult, but those are indeed at the heart of a stewardship way of life.

It is worth noting as we prepare for the coming of the Christ child that stewardship is both a happy and positive way of living. It is happy because good stewards, through focusing on gratitude, view life in an upbeat and encouraging way. As a result they are not blessed because they are stewards, but they are exceedingly happy because they view all as gift and all with gratefulness.

Paul goes on to say that it is God’s will that we live like this. That does not mean that it is a mandate or an order from the Lord — He granted each of us free will. Nevertheless, because it is God’s will, rather than we must do it, we are able to do it with God’s help. During this Advent season, as Christmas approaches, is the perfect time for us to commit to lives of stewardship. By turning to God and trusting in the Lord, we can achieve this.

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Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: December 7, 2014

December 7, 2014 – Second Sunday of Advent
Is 40: 1-5, 9-11; Ps 85: 9-14; 2 Ptr 3: 8-14; Mk 1: 1-8

This time of year, Advent and Christmas, is a time which brings many memories to most of us. Often memories inspired by this time of year are filled with warmth. Pope Benedict XVI, writing many years before he became the Holy Father, put it this way:

“Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to us as humans. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.… It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.” – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Our readings during this season of hope should challenge us while at the same time bringing us that comfortable feeling of hope — hope in the Lord and hope in salvation. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah trumpets that good feeling, “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says my God.” We hear much from Isaiah during this season because he presents to us so much that is familiar with what we should feel during this season. In today’s reading Isaiah reminds us that we should “prepare the way of the Lord,” as well as using the phrase “glad tidings.” Any troubles we have can be removed by love. Our burdens are removed when our sins are pardoned. This is part of our Advent experience, or at least it should be. We are given the opportunity to renew, to redirect, and to reconcile ourselves with God. That is what we should be about.

St. Peter opens his discourse in the second reading with “Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day.” You do not have to be very observant to sense the anticipation of children for Christmas. The time does indeed seem to move slowly. Of course, their anticipation is based upon the secular celebrations of the season. Nevertheless, it is worth us noting that anticipation and excitement because it is the same exhilaration we should feel about the arrival of the Christ child. Peter continues later in this reading to say, “Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish, before him, at peace.” This is a time of hope, but it is also a time for us to renew and reconcile. And, yes, as St. Peter reminds us, we are indeed beloved.

Our Gospel reading is appropriately the first eight verses of the Gospel of Mark. St. Mark echoes Isaiah as he proclaims to us, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Advent is a time of preparation. That preparation must really occur in our hearts. It has often been said that stewardship is not a conversion of mind but a conversion of heart. That is the kind of conversion to which we are called during this Advent season. John the Baptist understood that the Baptisms he performed were merely a prelude to the real Baptism with the Holy Spirit. That Baptism, brought to us by Christ, is where we find salvation through repentance.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: December 7, 2014

December 7, 2014 – Second Sunday of Advent
Is 40: 1-5, 9-11; Ps 85: 9-14; 2 Ptr 3: 8-14; Mk 1: 1-8

“One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.” Many of us may recall that proclamation from St. John the Baptist. It certainly reflects the humility expected from all of us as stewards of the Lord.

Nevertheless, there is a deeper meaning in that statement which has both implication and applicability to us and our lives. At that time, the time of John the Baptist and Jesus, one of the basic teachings of Jewish rabbis was that a teacher might demand almost anything of his students and followers with one exception: that was to remove the teacher’s sandals. John tells us he is not worthy to do even that. This Advent season asks us to evaluate how we relate to God, and how prepared we are to serve Christ as His disciple, His steward.

Are we worthy? That is the question we need to be asking ourselves. And the truth is that none of us are worthy of the sacrifice and salvation provided us by the Lord. Jesus brings us an immersion in the Holy Spirit which takes us beyond this life and this understanding. Are we ready? It is time to get ready. Saint Pope John Paul II said, “The whole of our life must be an ‘advent,’ a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ.”

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Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: November 30, 2014

November 30, 2014 – First Sunday of Advent
Is 63: 16B-17, 19B; 64: 2-7; Ps 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19; 1 Cor 1: 3-9; Mk 13: 33-37

“Brothers and Sisters: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is the greeting used by St. Paul in today’s second reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. This salutation is used by Paul five times in the New Testament. Grace is always first followed by peace. That is most likely because without grace there can be no peace. Peace naturally follows grace. Grace is the blessings we receive from God, the gifts to which we respond with gratitude as stewards.

This is the First Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday in our liturgical Church year as a matter of fact. Advent means “arrival” or “beginning.” We are preparing for the arrival of the Christ child, but we are also initiating our Church year, and we are beckoned to evaluate our lives in Christ and to make an effort to deepen and expand that relationship.

The first reading from the prophet Isaiah is a prayer. In that prayer Isaiah calls out to God to “return” as if He has gone away. What the prayer says first, however, is “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways?” Advent is a time for us to try to refocus on God, to quit wandering, and to return to walk with the Lord as we prepare for His coming. “Our guilt carries us away like the wind.” Temptation and sin are powerful forces — typhoon winds — and without God’s assistance we can be carried away by that. Advent is the time to turn back to God, to prepare, to begin anew.

St. Paul, in the second reading, offers thanks to God. The last five verses of today’s reading are a prayer of thanksgiving. “I give thanks to my God always…” Stewardship summons us to live lives of thanksgiving and gratitude. Paul understood that. Viewing life from the perspective of our blessings is an excellent way to prepare for Christmas. Four times in this reading Paul refers to Jesus as the Lord Jesus Christ. In Greek and Hebrew translations the name “Lord” is interchangeable with the name “Yahweh.” This is truly the one and only God. Jesus is, of course, the given name of the Christ child. “Jesus” is the Greek pronunciation of the Hebrew “Joshua,” and Joshua in Hebrew means “Yahweh is salvation.” And the name “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah,” meaning the “anointed one.” As we prepare for the arrival of the Christ child, Paul has it all included in that phrase Lord Jesus Christ.

Are we truly prepared for the Kingdom of God? Does our preparation include prayer often? Does it cause us to live God-centered lives that bring us ongoing renewal and conversion? These are all questions that are answered more easily if we pursue stewardship as a way of life. In the five verses of our Gospel from Mark today Jesus gives great emphasis to being watchful, being alert, and twice merely says “Watch!” This is not an admonition to just “be on the lookout,” but a reminder that we must be ever ready. The Lord reminds us often in Scripture that we cannot and do not know the time and place of His coming. In today’s Gospel He tells us, “You do not know when the time will come,” and “You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming.” Advent is the perfect time to take time each day, more than once each day if possible, to pray as an individual and as families; to turn to God; and to be alert, eager, and ready.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: November 30, 2014

November 30, 2014 – First Sunday of Advent
Is 63: 16B-17, 19B; 64: 2-7; Ps 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19; 1 Cor 1: 3-9; Mk 13: 33-37

On this First Sunday of Advent, we are invited to examine our relationship to God as we prepare for the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is a time for us to deepen our connection to the Lord through various opportunities and paths. As sinners we are expected to reconcile with God.

In the Gospel from Mark, Jesus advises us to “Be watchful! Be alert!” The Lord is not speaking about next week, nor even the Christmas for which we prepare. This is something He expects us to do today, this instant. Christ makes reference to a Master who, like God, leaves others in charge of His household. God expects each of us to be stewards of His household.

He has left us His household, His Church, and we are supposed to build and maintain that. He has given us free will; in other words God has given us authority over the gifts He has given us. Finally, He expects each of us to fulfill our role in His Kingdom. Stewardship invites every one of us to participate and to contribute to the good of the whole, our faith community — not next week, not just at Christmas, but now. “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor 1: 9)

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Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: November 23, 2014

November 23, 2014 – The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Ez 34: 11-12, 15-17; Ps 23: 1-3, 5-6; 1 Cor 15: 20-26, 28; Mt 25: 31-46

“Come, you who are blessed by my father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Jesus states those words as His invitation to each of us to join Him in His Kingdom. Of course, he also includes some provisos that require us to demonstrate Christian love — including feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, and care for the sick.

Today we commemorate the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. The Kingdom of God that Jesus represents is referred to often in the Bible. In fact, in the four Gospels, the word “kingdom” appears very often. The Gospel of Mark mentions the “Kingdom of God” or the “Kingdom of Heaven” 14 times; Luke 32 times; Matthew 37 times; John 2 times. Jesus is the Lord of all Creation. We understand that this kingdom is not the kind with which we are familiar in the secular world. In fact, the Lord makes the point over and over that it is not of this earth. Nevertheless, Jesus’ initial announcement when He begins His ministry is with the prophetic words “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mark 1:15)

Jesus is a different kind of king. The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel stresses the idea of the Lord as the Good Shepherd. “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” To emphasize that He is this shepherd, God speaks first hand to us in this reading. Eleven times He uses the personal pronoun “I.” He makes it clear from “I will tend my sheep” to “I will rescue” to “I will heal.” All of this as prophecy anticipates the Messiah, and the use of this personal pronoun makes it clear that the Messiah will be more than a man. It is also worth noting the Responsorial Psalm for this Solemnity is the beautiful and poetic 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” This trust in God, this belief in Him as the Shepherd and the Guardian, is that trust that allows us to live lives of stewardship — lives that know that He will protect us and be with us and whatever commitments we make through stewardship, God will enable us to succeed.

In the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians Paul also refers to the kingdom and the reign of God. He uses a term for Christ that has a strong stewardship connection. Paul tells us that Christ is the “first fruits” –that is, He is at the basis of all our faith and all our hope. Through stewardship we are to return our first fruits to the Lord in gratitude and thanksgiving. In fact, the Greek word aparche means “first fruits” and it is that word that is used both to describe Jesus and to call us to make that offering to God.

Jesus’ reminder to us in the Gospel of Matthew that we will be judged based upon how we treat others, as He can be found in all others, and we need to recognize that, is poignant and touching. The ongoing challenge of stewardship and the obstacle to a Christian life for many of us can be found in the word “apathy.” That is what Jesus is telling us: that it is not just a question of what we do, but that our attitude toward this is equally condemning. We may think that not turning our back on those in need is all right, but the Lord is telling us that even though we may feel that we have done nothing immoral, our lack of interest in the needs of others is just as bad. We must not be unconcerned about the gifts God has given us; in fact, we need to use those gifts to build the Kingdom of God. And we certainly cannot show a lack of care for those in need. Jesus has made this point throughout His ministry. The cost of indifference is as great as that of openly mistreating others. Even the well known author and playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that is the essence of inhumanity.”

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: November 23, 2014

November 23, 2014 – The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Ez 34: 11-12, 15-17; Ps 23: 1-3, 5-6; 1 Cor 15: 20-26, 28; Mt 25: 31-46

“Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” Jesus does not make it easy for any of us when He says that. Even those who practice stewardship faithfully, even the best among us, have times when they may turn their back on those in need. The Solemnity that we celebrate today is popularly known as Christ the King.

It is in Church terms relatively new. Instituted in 1921 by Pope Pius XI, it was originally on the last Sunday of October. It was renamed in 1969 by Pope Paul VI and moved to its present date, which is the last Sunday in the liturgical year, the last Sunday before Advent. The edict issued by Pope Pius XI in 1925 was called Quas Primas. It stated “It has long been a custom to give to Christ the metaphorical title of ‘King.’ He is King of Hearts by reason of His ‘charity which exceedeth all knowledge’.”

Today’s readings trace our Lord Jesus Christ from “the shepherd who tends his flock” to the “first fruits” to the “king.” As stewards of His Word, His Kingdom, and His Hope, He invites us to see Him in everyone we see and everyone we encounter so that we can finally hear His glorious declaration, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.”

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Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: November 16, 2014

November 16, 2014 – Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Prv 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Ps 128: 1-5; 1 Thes 5: 1-6; Mt 25: 14-30

“Come share your master’s joy.” With those words the master in the Parable of the Talents, found in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew, invites his servants to join him, to be with Him in heaven. That is the primary stewardship message found in today’s readings, but each of the readings provides insights into what is truly important, or at least what should be crucial in our lives and in how we live them.

As we hear it and assimilate it, the first reading from Proverbs may seem very unlike the Gospel, but there is an implication within the reading which we frequently miss. The covert meaning of this scriptural passage is found in the statement, “Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting.” The true challenge to us in living Christian lives of stewardship is to determine what is truly significant in relation to our lives. In this instance the reference is to the ideal for a wife. That model woman has as her most noteworthy component virtue. A virtuous and good woman is rewarded in the same way as the faithful stewards in the Gospel. She is to be “praised” and given a “reward.” Being able to separate this mental appreciation from an emotional one is difficult, and that is one of the many struggles we face in living lives of stewardship.

Thessalonica was the capital city of the Roman Province of Macedonia. Saint Paul traveled there after he was ousted from Philippi. Paul was in Philippi for only three days, but he was in Thessalonica for a much longer time. In fact, we know that he was there for at least three weeks and probably longer, as he makes reference to preaching there on three successive Sabbath days. He uses a phrase in today’s second reading, “…the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night,” which has a meaning parallel to the message in the first reading. Jesus made it clear that there was no way we could anticipate nor know when He would come again (“…that day and hour no one knows.” Matthew 24:36). Paul’s point to the Thessalonians and to us is that we must be prepared. That is not easy for us when we are caught up in the day to day burdens and tasks of our lives, but pursuing a life of stewardship is one of the means by which we can be prepared. Stewardship is a God-centered way of living. It calls for us to be aware and grateful every minute of every day. Through prayer and a planned way of living we are constantly renewed and brought back to what should be most important.

Saint Paul goes on to write of darkness and light. Darkness is when we live in sin, when we do not accept nor recognize the constant presence (and strengthening support) of God. Are we like the Thessalonians to whom Paul refers, “…all of you are children of the light,” or do we stray from what should be the real purpose of our lives — to experience rebirth and conversion over and over so that we are truly prepared for that time which none of us can know.

Depending upon definition Jesus shared roughly 40 parables with us. Of those more than half address the issue of possessions and finances. It was not that the Lord had great interest in those, but He knew that we do, and that it was an issue to which we could relate. Today’s Gospel includes the Parable of the Talents. A “talent” in this instance is not a skill or ability, but a unit of money — in fact, a large amount of money. Jesus was fond of referring to the master or the father in His parables, and that was a direct reference to God. In this parable the master provides three servants, three stewards, with varying amounts. It is the same for us; each of us has been given varying amounts of gifts for which we are responsible. Stewardship of those gifts is how we use them, and especially how we use them to serve God, to help build His Kingdom.

Just as in the first two readings, it is clear that we have a choice. The two stewards who are rewarded with places in the Kingdom of God (“Come share your master’s joy.”) do not neglect their gifts. They develop them and return them with increase to the master, to the Lord. Stewardship calls us to do the same thing.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: November 16, 2014

November 16, 2014 – Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Prv 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Ps 128: 1-5; 1 Thes 5: 1-6; Mt 25: 14-30

“Well done my good and faithful servant.” With those words the master in Jesus’ Parable of the Talents smiles and rewards his servant. We often cite the Parable of the Talents in relation to stewardship. Because of our understanding of “talent,” we may assume that this is a parable about skills and those kinds of gifts.

Of course, in this case, a “talent” is a unit of money. Scholars assume that the master is wealthy; therefore, whether one received five talents, two talents, or one talent, they most likely received a huge amount of money according to our standards. That is not the stewardship perspective of this parable. Each of us, just as the three servants in the parable, has received multiple gifts from God (the Master). The question posed by Jesus, and the question we must be prepared to answer at our own judgment, is “What have you done with the gifts you have received?”

Everything we have and everything we become are gifts from God. Like the stewards in the parable, we have been given gifts. Do we develop those gifts and do we share them, or do we “bury” them and really do nothing with them? Those who do the former, return them with increase to the Lord, are not only complimented, but embraced and invited: “Come share your master’s joy.”

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Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: November 9, 2014

November 9, 2014 – Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
Ez 47: 1-2, 8-9, 12; Ps 46: 2-3, 5-6, 8-9; 1 Cor 3: 9C-11, 16-17; Jn 2: 13-22

“Brothers and Sisters…Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwells in you?” With those words St. Paul connects the temple found in the first reading to each of us. Today is the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. It may seem unusual to celebrate a Feast commemorating a church building, but the Lateran Basilica is more than just a building to us Catholics.

The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral of Rome. This is not St. Peter’s at the Vatican, but it is the Pope’s cathedral. It was built in the time of the Emperor Constantine and was consecrated by Pope Sylvester in 324. Almost 1,700 years old, it was the baptism church of ancient Rome. In 313 Constantine issued an edict which granted Christians the freedom to practice their religion. St. John Lateran was built on the exact spot where Constantine had a vision leading him to issue that edict. For that reason alone this Feast is worthy of our celebration.

However, as you might expect, the readings for this Feast Day speak to churches and buildings and then, as indicated above, St. Paul associates those to us personally. In the Word of God a temple of stones becomes a living Church to us with Jesus as the foundation and the cornerstone. Our churches are more than just places of worship. They represent an order and structure to our Church which enhances our relationship to Christ. Pope Benedict XVI put it this way: “My friends, today’s feast celebrates a mystery that is always relevant: God’s desire to build a spiritual temple in the world, a community that worships Him in spirit and truth.”

Many Gospel scholars conclude that the waters running from the temple in the first reading represent the Gospel of Christ which went forth and spread throughout the world. The volume of the waters increases as they flow, even though there is no indication of tributaries or other waters flowing into them. We, as stewards of the word, are to take these living waters and to spread them everywhere we go as disciples.

In the second reading St. Paul declares to the Corinthians that in Corinth he, Paul, laid a foundation. That foundation, of course, is Jesus Christ, and it is on that foundation that the church is built. However, Paul cautions the Corinthians to “be careful” how they build on that foundation. Furthermore Paul reminds them that the temple is not just the building in which they worship, but he also speaks to each individual, and each of us, in writing, “…you are the temple of God and…the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Paul places the concept of temple on three levels: the building, the community, and each individual member. Stewardship calls us to keep in mind all of those as we are the stewards of our churches, our faith communities, and our individual lives.

The Gospel from John is a passage that is likely familiar to many. Jesus visits the temple and is upset by what is going on in the plaza outside, filled with vendors and money changers. Following His reaction to what He found, and after He “drove them all out of the temple area,” the Lord was asked, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Of course, His answer to that is one that we may know but we may not always understand it. Jesus said “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” John explains that those who heard this answer were confused because the temple had been under construction for decades and how could it be rebuilt in three days? “But he was speaking about the temple of his body.”

Just as Paul describes more than one temple, the Lord does as well. Jesus knew of His death and resurrection. The Lord knew that His body could not be destroyed. The message to us is that our temples, our bodies, cannot be destroyed either if we become disciples of the Lord and commit to following Him, commit to living lives of stewardship, serving God, our Church, and one another.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: November 9, 2014

November 9, 2014 – Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
Ez 47: 1-2, 8-9, 12; Ps 46: 2-3, 5-6, 8-9; 1 Cor 3: 9C-11, 16-17; Jn 2: 13-22

As today is the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, each of the readings relates in some way to churches — the buildings in which we worship. The Lateran Basilica is the official Church of Rome and the Pope, not St. Peter with which we tend to associate the Vatican.

The first reading from Ezekiel speaks of the temple and the holy, living waters which flow from it. Ezekiel 47 reminds us that what occurs inside the church building is incredibly important, the Eucharist, called in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the “source and summit of our Christian life.”

Churches and holy waters are a principal part of our Catholic faith. We enter the church through Baptism, and as we enter our Catholic churches, we find holy water to remind us of that Baptism and to prompt us to remember that we are in a holy place, a place where we gather as a community, united as the Body of Christ. We are the stewards of this church, this holy place where we can disregard the burdens of the world and join together to receive the life giving waters of the Word and the Eucharist. Yes, we are the church, but there is more to it than that. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “In him you are also being built together into a dwelling place for God.”

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: November 2, 2014

November 2, 2014 – The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
Wis 3: 1-9; Ps 23: 1-6; Rom 5: 5-11; Jn 6: 37-40

All Souls Day on Nov. 2 is a day when we pray for deceased souls. These prayers may be general in nature or they may involve specific members of our families and our faith communities, including perhaps physically visiting the graves of our family members.

On All Saints Day, we acknowledge the presence of those who have departed this life. Today, we recognize and honor them to an even greater extent. To practice stewardship completely we need to be aware of our personal families and our faith families. Just prior to today’s Gospel reading Jesus reminds us that “I am the bread of life.” Seven times in Holy Scripture, Jesus states, “I am…” followed by various statements which allow us to grasp more fully what He is and what He has done for us.

Bread is considered one of those essentials “for life.” Jesus is reminding us that He is essential for life, for eternal life. Jesus is not speaking of the physical life on this earth, but about “eternal life.” It is that hope which allows us to trust in Him by living stewardship. This past June at Mass, Pope Francis said, “He Himself is the living bread that gives life to the world.” Let us embrace that hope.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: November 2, 2014

November 2, 2014 – The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
Wis 3: 1-9; Ps 23: 1-6; Rom 5: 5-11; Jn 6: 37-40

“Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) With those words St. Paul begins his message to the Romans in the second reading. As we commemorate All Souls Day, the implication of all the readings can be condensed into one word: Hope.

As might be expected on All Souls Day, the readings deal not just with the hope of the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to us, but also with our firm belief in and grasp of eternal life. The Book of Wisdom, although attributed to Solomon, was written only fifty years before the birth of Christ according to most scholars and historians. Our first reading from the third chapter is one which is often used as part of funeral liturgies. It begins with “The souls of the just are in the hands of God.” This insight is a vital part of our view of stewardship — that is, all comes from God and all goes through God. God is in control of everything in our lives and by conceding that, we are better able to live God-centered lives.

It is also worth noting that in the middle of this reading is this statement: “yet is their hope full of immortality.” Of course, this speaks to the hope to which we made reference, but it is also essential to know this is the first time the word “immortality” appears in the entire Bible. Our hope in the Lord is completely connected to our belief in everlasting life.

As mentioned at the opening of this reflection, St. Paul greets the Romans in today’s second reading with the assurance that “Hope does not disappoint.” By knowing how much God loves us and by being aware of His promises to us, we are able to maintain and sustain the hope which should bring us comfort always. Notice that God’s love does not slowly drip into us; it is “poured into our hearts.” To accept salvation, to accept what Christ did for us, we must also realize that we are sinners. This is an important point which Paul makes to us in this reading from Romans. Paul spent the majority of this letter leading up to this point by explaining to us and reminding us that we are the “ungodly” people to whom he makes reference. Comprehending this is what fills us with hope, and living our lives in stewardship for the tremendous gift of this is what fulfills us.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus completes the indication of immortality found in the first reading. The Lord says, “everyone who sees the son and believes in him may have eternal life.” When we say, “Our hope is in the Lord,” this is exactly what we mean. When we are hungry, we know that food will solve the problem. However, we are speaking of a spiritual hunger here. Our lives are filled with times of despair, and perhaps sadness. It is this hope in the promise of Christ, our hope in salvation and eternal lives of joy with the Lord that allow us to live with a positive outlook on life. Stewardship is a positive way of approaching life. The stewardship way of life is filled with hope, and thus can be filled with joy.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: October 26, 2014

October 26, 2014 – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ex 22: 20-26; Ps 18: 2-4, 47, 51; 1 Thes 1: 5C-10; Mt 22: 34-40

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” That is a relatively comprehensive statement on what each of us must do before we do anything else. It is called by many the prime commandment. This is a commandment which the Lord wants us to make genuine and true in relationship to how we live. Through stewardship our concentration needs to always be on God and what that means.

The readings on this Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time refer to conversion, commitment, and service, all key elements of what we know as stewardship. The first reading from Exodus speaks of how we should treat others, just as the Gospel of Matthew does. We are called to regard with great compassion those who might be perceived as poor or weak. Scripture often makes reference to how we treat widows and orphans. However, even before the admonition as to how we treat those vulnerable people, we are asked to consider how we treat “strangers.” Scripture uses the word “aliens,” but it is really calling us to consider how we approach and behave toward those new or different among us, strangers and visitors. Hospitality is one of the pillars of good stewardship, and our attitude toward these “strangers” is indicative of our outlook and of what Jesus calls our love of our neighbors.

There is a popular hymn in which the refrain is “The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor.” That is what this first reading is all about. God has a particular love and care for the poor. We must not forget that in many ways Jesus and His family were poor, according to the standards of that time. When they visit the Temple for Jesus’ dedication, their offering is two birds, which was considered the offering of a poor family (Luke 2:24).

St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians makes reference to the power of conversion. Paul refers to the strength of the Word, making it clear that it should not be just words to us, but something much deeper, something which brings us to conversion, just as it did with the Thessalonians. Paul explains to the Thessalonians that they are “examples.” Each of us is called to be an example as well. Paul was an example to those in Thessalonica; they in turn were an example to the people of Macedonia and Achaia. Jesus calls each of us to be examples to others, examples of love and stewardship. This is the ultimate form of evangelization.

The two great commandments expounded by Jesus in the Gospel might be considered as the foundational pieces of advice to us as to how we can best be Christians and live Christian lives. Loving God is very straightforward, but it is not easy. Loving our neighbor means much more than having regard for those who live next door or in our area. Jesus felt that everyone, absolutely everyone throughout the world, was truly our neighbor. The Lord correctly understood that being somewhat selfish and self-centered and seeing the world only on a local level was a natural state for many of us. Jesus, as well as the concept of stewardship, calls us to a higher plane, a more advanced perception of life and living. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, to be His follower, we must humbly place others in preference to our own interests. On paper, it may seem simple, but we know it is much more complex and difficult: all we have to do is love God and love all others. That is what we must do.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: October 26, 2014

October 26, 2014 – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ex 22: 20-26; Ps 18: 2-4, 47, 51; 1 Thes 1: 5C-10; Mt 22: 34-40

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus advises the Pharisees and others who are listening to Him. This was in answer to a “trick” question posed to him by a lawyer among the Pharisees. The questioner wanted the Lord to give a response that might appear to lessen other commandments. Instead, Jesus points out that there are some commandments from our God that are greater than our traditional Ten Commandments.

“You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” We are first called to that relationship with God, a relationship which acknowledges God’s love of us, and results in our own love of the Lord. That is where stewardship must begin with each of us — through developing a loving bond with God. However, Jesus then explains to us how we must relate to one another: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Many misinterpret Christ’s admonition to mean that we must love ourselves first. He was not saying that we must love ourselves before we love anyone else. He was saying nonetheless that our focus as stewards needs to be on serving and loving others. The good steward respects, regards, and loves others as he or she might expect to be treated. Love and stewardship are very much the same — each strives to put others before our own interests.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections